Province starts consultations on post-secondary tuition fees

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MANITOBA could introduce a new post-secondary tuition policy that involves differentiated fees across faculties as early as 2023-24.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/03/2022 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MANITOBA could introduce a new post-secondary tuition policy that involves differentiated fees across faculties as early as 2023-24.

Starting today, the department of advanced education is hosting forums on the future of college and university fees. Institutional leaders and student groups have been invited to weigh in.

“The consultations will focus on things like affordability and accessibility for students, financial stability for institutions, and high-quality programming,” a provincial spokesperson said.

Alexandra Koslock, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students’ chapter in Manitoba, said she was disheartened to learn this week that Elections Canada will not run ballot boxes at colleges or universities. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

The meetings, which the province promised as part of Bill 33 (The Advanced Education Administration Act), are part of initial consultations.

Bill 33 passed late last year, despite opposition from student and faculty unions who argue it is a power grab that infringes on school autonomy and threatens to eliminate student union fees that were decided upon during campus referendums.

The new law grants the minister power to issue and regulate tuition and student fees, including the ability to limit increases, require decreases, and prohibit compulsory fees. An institution’s provincial funding can be reduced by the amount it charges in excess of minister-mandated guidelines.

The Canadian Federation of Students is worried the law will result in different classes of tuition and make some subjects inaccessible, said Alexandra Koslock, president of the Manitoba chapter.

Koslock said the policy sets up “the corporatization of colleges and universities” by laying the groundwork for institutions and programs to be rewarded for aligning themselves with private industry while there is little faculty or student oversight.

“We’re already very concerned about the accessibility of post-secondary education in Manitoba and it’s unclear at this time about what the impact of these (new fee) policies will be,” she said, noting “differentiated tuition” is among the main themes the province wants to discuss.

While CFS MB supports the status quo, the student leader said she is grateful to be included in consultations and eager to learn more about the province’s policy ideas.

The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations — which represents academics at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Brandon University, and Université de Saint-Boniface — did not receive an invitation.

“Failure to consult with faculty suggests that your government does not value our contributions to the social and economic well-being of our province,” MOFA president Scott Forbes wrote in a letter to Advanced Education Minister Jon Reyes on Tuesday.

During an interview, Forbes said MOFA was informed faculty consultations would violate the laws pertaining to the Fort Whyte byelection — a response he called puzzling, given meetings have been scheduled with other stakeholders.

MOFA has been highly critical of differential tuition, citing research from other jurisdictions that suggests differentiated fees cause overall enrolment to decline rather than an uptick in programs politicians want to grow.

“The real objective, if you look at the big picture, where this has been done — across most of the United States, in western Europe and in Australia — is to cut public funding… for public education,” Forbes said.

Last month, the University of Manitoba sought community input ahead of the looming consultations. Its notice indicates the department has told U of M its input will be used to inform the development of a new tuition policy, and any future framework will not take effect until the 2023-24 academic year.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

History

Updated on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 3:24 PM CST: Update in Alexandra Koslock's statement

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